“Who is ‘Father,’” the Syrian held out a letter, and Shemesh tried to look at it through his one unbloodied eye. At first, Shemesh misheard him.
“Who is Samson?”
“No, you dirty Jew, ‘Father,’ here look,” the Syrian thrust the paper within an inch on Shemesh’s face. The hand trembled with rage. David then realized that they had not intercepted the coded messages from the American Consulate. They had a stack of letters to his father, letters he had never posted or meant to post, but had left in his desk drawer.
“He's my father. He lives in
.” Shemesh’s answer brought a blow. Baghdad
“Dog!” hissed the Syrian. “Jews don’t know who their fathers are. They are all sons of whores.” The Syrian picked a letter, and went over it word by word. He believed that every phrase, ever word, was a mask for some concealed identity, some covert event.
Every time Shemesh answered, there was a fist. Who is Aaron? My brother. A fist. Who is Rebecca? My sister. A fist. Who is Abdullah? My childhood friend. The Syrian, his hand numb, took off his shoe and as a sign of disrespect, beat Shemesh with the heel. Fifteen more minutes of this line of questioning, Shemesh thought, and I'll be dead.
“Who is Abraham?” the Syrian screamed, spit flying out of his mouth.
“Another brother, my eldest, a great man…”
“Abraham was a prophet, and the beloved of God. He was the first Muslim,” the man was now on his feet, gesturing threateningly near David’s face. “A Jew should not defile his name by placing it on his tongue, let alone naming a bastard after him!” And Shemesh expected yet more blows. But another man entered the room and whispered something in the Syrian’s ear. And in a short time, David Shemesh was carried out.